Clark County Fair blooming in the Exhibition Hall

Master gardeners present award-winning exhibit about edible plants

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

2013 Clark County Fair, day 2

Square dancing, master gardeners and fun on rides marked the first Saturday of the 2013 Clark County Fair.

If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area Park & Ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

Carnival: Opens at noon; unlimited rides today, $30. 99.5 The Wolf Grandstands: Kip Moore, 7 p.m. Other highlights: Chips and Salsa Eating Contest, 1 p.m.; Britnee Kellogg, 5 p.m.

Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

Information: www.clarkcofair.com or call 360-397-6180. Download the mobile app for the Clark County Fair at: http://crwd.cc/ccfair13

Walking down the midway at the fair can feel like facing an endless sea of heat, dust and doohickeys. As the sun beats down on the black asphalt, one might wonder is there any plant life here? Can I even eat any sort of plant life here? The "fruit" smoothies, after all, are mere mirages of flavored juice and ice, and the curly fries sweaty siblings of their potato predecessors.

And yet, at the WSU Master Gardeners exhibit tucked into the back of the Exhibition Hall, you might find yourself getting back to the real roots of food and nibbling on plants straight out of the garden. The exhibit, new to this year's fair, is out to prove that growing an attractive and edible landscape doesn't require a green thumb or a ton of space.

"Anyone can do it," said Carolyn Gordon, master gardener and director of WSU Vancouver's Growing Groceries Mentor Program.

People often think of vegetable gardens as these neat rows of produce requiring a lot of space, but that's not the case. Edible plants can be incorporated into a regular garden, bringing new colors, sizes and shapes -- as well as a delicious return on your investment.

Every single plant in the demo garden has an edible component. That includes plants people might not consider food: nasturtiums, marigold and fuchsia.

Gardeners, whether new or seasoned pros, are starting to incorporate more edibles and more native plants into their

landscaping. Plants like the evergreen huckleberry hit both trends.

Lawns are shrinking, Gordon said, but edible gardens don't require a lot of space. They don't even need a yard.

"You can grow pretty much any vegetable in a container as long as you have the proper amount of sun," Gordon said. Many herbs and lettuces, she added, can grow on a window sill.

But space-starved gardeners aren't limited to little herb gardens. Raspberries, though they typically grow in a big bush, come in lesser-known thornless dwarf varieties that are easy to pot.

"You can grow an apple on your patio," Gordon said, pointing to a columnar apple tree. The plant grows up to 10 feet tall but it doesn't get wide, making the plant a space-saver.

Although plants require maintenance and care, they can shave off money from monthly grocery bills. A tomato start, which can be as cheap as $1, can yield about 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Many parents, Gordon said, are concerned about pesticides found in produce at the grocery store. A garden offers more control and reassurance.

"You know where it came from and what you used to create it," she said.

The master gardeners won "Best Educational Exhibit," which Gordon partially attributes to the "Ag Bites," or fast facts about Clark County agriculture, that are sprinkled throughout the garden. The exhibit also includes children's activities about beneficial bugs in the garden and posters on teaching children to work in the garden.

Feeling inspired to pot a plant, but not sure what variety to grow? The master gardeners will be here throughout the fair to answer questions.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; patty.hastings@columbian.com